Ohio State instructors explain why they don’t use proctoring software – and what they do instead

The sudden shift to teaching online in spring 2020 caused instructors to rethink their planned exams.

In contexts where it wasn’t possible to redesign the class around alternative forms of assessment, many instructors looked for ways to adjust their exams to minimize cheating. Without the ability to visually watch their students in the classroom, how could they be sure that students were taking their exams according to the instructions? 

While some instructors have turned to proctoring software such as Proctorio in hopes of preventing or identifying academic misconduct, others have deliberately avoided these types of tools. We interviewed instructors from across campus to find out their reasoning for avoiding online proctoring and what measures they have in place to ensure academic integrity. 

Megan Lobert, Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Megan Lobert
Megan Lobert

“I think there’s this impression that proctoring software is this foolproof system, but it’s not."

"We were using proctoring for a number of years only in our fully online classes. Since the start of the pandemic, we now require all Spanish and Portuguese language courses, both fully online and hybrid modalities, to give quizzes and exams online through Carmen and have suspended the use of Proctorio. Rather than using the online proctoring software, we decided to convert our online quizzes and exams to timed, open-book, open-note assessments. 

“At the beginning of the pivot to fully online in the middle of spring 2020, we decided to discontinue our use of Proctorio since it cannot be used on all devices, such as an iPad. Plus, throughout the years we've experienced a myriad of problems during online quizzes and exams using proctoring software. Given not all our students had equal access to desktop computers, reliable high-speed internet and more, we felt requiring Proctorio during the pandemic would be one more potential hurdle for students to juggle and simply not worth it.

“I think there’s this impression that proctoring software is this foolproof system, but it’s not. We've learned from experience that it is much harder to successfully proctor exams using a software than it might seem. The last year has been exceptionally challenging for everyone and we felt that eliminating the proctoring software and converting to open-book, open-note assessments was a better solution for both students and language program leadership."

Susan Clark, Fisher College of Business

Susan Clark
Susan Clark

"I include an honor statement at the beginning of the test."

“I used proctoring software for my first exam in autumn 2020, and it did not go well. I set up a practice quiz, but one mistake was that I didn’t give them any points for doing the practice quiz, so a lot of students didn’t even do it. Test time came along, and my email inbox was going crazy. The students were panicked because they couldn’t access the exam. For some of them, their computer couldn’t support the software, so I was quickly sending them passcodes to release them from being monitored. I just couldn’t do that again. 

also realized that for the rest of the exams, students need a more advanced calculator than the one available in Proctorio, and I provide them with a formula sheet, so I decided there was going to be too much eye movement with them using scrap paper and a calculator to work out the problems, even if I adjusted the software settings.

So what I’m doing now is having all the students take the test at the exact same time with a 75-minute window to complete it. I’m also allowing them to drop one of the five tests in case they have a conflict or a technology problem. I include an honor statement at the beginning of the test. 

My colleague saw some of our test questions out there online, but we do use a test bank from the publisher. My personal test bank is getting more robust each semester. If you have a large pool of questions you’re pulling from, students aren’t going to have the same questions as their classmates.”

Philip Grandinetti, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Philip Grandinetti
Philip Grandinetti

"I never wanted to use proctoring because I think it’s a violation of privacy."

“I had a lot of problems with academic integrity in my course even before we moved online, and I never wanted to use proctoring because I think it’s a violation of privacy. In spring 2020, I opened the exam up in Carmen for 24 hours —  from 5 p.m. to 5 p.m. — and it failed miserably. My teaching associate discovered all our questions and answers had been posted online on a site where students can request answers from graduate students in another country. It pretty much invalidated my test, so I had to come up with another solution. 

Now I have a strategy for using Carmen that I think minimizes that risk. The exams are five questions, and each one is a separate quiz in Carmen. The first question opens at 10 a.m., the second one opens at 10:20 and so on. As soon as they open each question, they have 45 minutes to answer it. They don’t have time to go hunting for answers. 

I know there’s no solution as good as having them in the classroom to take the exam in person, but I think going forward I’m going to be using Carmen for quizzes a lot more than I did before.” 

Marc Smith, Fisher College of Business

Marc Smith
Marc Smith

"I make it clear ... that posting questions online, looking up questions online, or working together on exams is considered academic misconduct."

“In my experience, the cost of using proctoring software is greater than the benefit you get from it. I have a class of about 1,200 students. Not only is that a large number of students, but they’re all over the world right now, and trying to make proctoring software work has been a bit of a nightmare for them. You’re not going to catch every cheater, but the majority of our students are honest. 

“I teach accounting, which means our exams are all numbers, so I have an advantage in that sense. Carmen has a really nice feature of a formula question, so I can create the formula and each student essentially gets a unique question. If a student posts my exam question online, I’m going to know who it was because no other student who took the exam had those same variables.

“I make it clear in the syllabus and in an email before the exam that posting questions online, looking up questions online, or working together on exams is considered academic misconduct. At the beginning of the autumn semester, we started off with a decent number of people who were cheating, but it’s amazing what word of mouth does. By the end of the semester, there were hardly any instances of our exam questions appearing online. I’m crossing my fingers that the same word of mouth has filtered into this semester, too.”

For recommendations and strategies about online exams and assignments, visit the Keep Teaching assessments page, which includes guidance from the Committee on Academic Misconduct (COAM), or request a consult with the Office of Distance Education and eLearning.